Many of us find prayer hard and difficult, but it is surprising how much easier prayer is when we have some matter of urgency to pray over.
Here in Psalm 86 we find David’s urgent prayer. David’s life is in danger. He prays “Guard my life” (v2). “Arrogant foes are attacking, O God, ruthless people are trying to kill me”.
Let us look at this Psalm:
1. David’s description of himself.
David calls out “Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.” (verse1)
David describes himself as “poor”. We often forget what it is like to be poor. The truly (or very) poor are not able to help themselves, they are dependent upon others for help. An example would be the very low wage migrant workers in India who were not able to work because of the Corona virus lockdown and were also not able to return home. They were in need of others to provide food as they could not even provide food for themselves.
This is how David comes to God, with open hands realising that he cannot help himself. This is surely how we must come to God, with open hands, realising that we are dependent on him.
We recall “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). It is the opposite to the Pharisee in Luke 18
“The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’”
The Pharisee did not need (seemingly) to pray. He did not need God, (so he thought), as he was totally self-sufficient. We are to have an attitude totally different to that of the Pharisee. We pray because we recognise our dependence and need of God.
David also prays “Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;” (verse 2). He agues his case my reminding the Lord that he is faithful. We can use arguments with God as to why he should answer our requests. We also notice that David does not say he is perfect but faithful. He attempted to constantly to follow the Lord and his commands. Let this encourage us to be faithful to the Lord, remembering that “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16).
It is clear that he is not making a vague prayer to “someone up there”, but he has a relationship with God. He calls him “my God” (verse 2) and calls him “Lord” and describes himself as a “servant”.
We also have a relationship with God. He is “our God” our “Lord” and we are his “servants”. However, we go one stage further, because we understand from the New Testament that we are brought into God’s family when we come to him in faith. We pray “Our Father, which art in heaven”.
Jesus reminds the disciples of this and says:
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! ” (Matthew 7:9-12)
We are encouraged to bring our requests to our heavenly Father, who gives good gifts!
David also says “I call to you all day long.” (verse 2).
How is David praying all day, laying, kneeling standing or how? David may have assumed a posture as he prayed, but many of us also know that when we are in need, we pray quietly to ourselves where ever we are. It is very likely David prayed not in one fixed position but also prayed in his particular situation or task that he was doing, much as we often do.
2. David’s description of the Lord and what he can do.
David believes the Lord is able to answer his prayer and then he will have joy. He prays “Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you.” (verse 4)
He reminds himself in his prayer that the Lord has answered him in the past.”When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.” (verse 7). In the scriptures we have many examples of God answering prayer. We can be encouraged to know that God answers our prayers when our requests are according to his will.
He says that the Lord is good (verse 5). The answers that the Lord gives us will be good, (for our good and God’s purposes).
He also answers in ways that are immeasurably more than all we can ask, think or imagine, (see Ephesians 3:20). Remember at the time David wrote, only a small number of people from the world’s population worshipped the Lord. Most of the peoples of the world worshipped other gods, Yet David believes that the Lord is not only different from these other gods, but that he created the nations of the world. David believes as did a number of the saints in the Old Testament that the nations of the earth would worship the Lord (as for example Isaiah in chapter 2 of his book). “All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord;” (verse 9).
If you had asked an ordinary person in the time of David it would have seemed impossible that the nations of the world would worship the Lord. However, look around you and see the many countries Christians come from. There are not many from a jewish background. The prayer expectation of David has been answered in a way that David and others of his day could not expect or imagine.
3 Two other requests of David
David also prays “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness;” (verse 11)
This is a prayer we as believers will often need to pray. We know from scripture what God expects, but knowing how we should apply that knowledge is not easy. This is why we pray “Teach me your way, Lord”.
David prays “..give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (verse 11).
David desires to be totally committed to the Lord. It is easy to get distracted with our career, family, hobbies, sport etc. We also should desire and pray for total commitment to the Lord.
A number of us have been in need in the past. Many of us will be in need in the future. Some of you are in need at the moment, if so then: Look to the Lord, call out to him for help, remember we have a relationship to him, he is not only our Lord but also our Father. He can not only answer prayer, he has a record of answering, if it is according to his will and purposes. He answers in ways that we cannot even think or imagine.
Call out to him like David! “Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.”!
A prayer of David.
1 Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. 2 Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; 3 have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long. 4 Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you.
5 You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. 6 Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. 7 When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.
8 Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. 9 All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. 10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. 12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. 13 For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.
14 Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God; ruthless people are trying to kill me— they have no regard for you. 15 But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. 16 Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did. 17 Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
A young boy did not like the food that his mum had given him. He did not like the carrots (which were a bit hard). However, his mother was not happy with this and not only got angry at his attitude but told him “God will be angry with you” and sent him to his room.
The boy went to his room straight away. Shortly after, there was a thunder storm and the electricity went out. The boy’s mother became concerned about him in his room so she went to check on him. She opened the door quietly, the boy was looking out at of his window watching the lightening and saying to himself. “All because of some carrots!”
It is easy to get wrong ideas of God, that is why we need to understand what God has said in his word, rather than thinking we know what what God is like.
A friend told me of a his son who was always willing to help people, but when he drank (got drunk), he became a different person. Some of us may have had friends or relatives, like this young man who drank heavily, who then became “different” people.
The (Gentile) culture of the Ephesians was very different to even our own. People would often get drunk, steal, deceive and had extremes of immorality. The new believers in Ephesus also would do some of these things.
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18-19)
Here there is a comparison and a contrast with being drunk with wine and being filled with the Spirit. (There is nothing wrong with drinking alcohol, but it is wrong to drink it so we become drunk)
The work of the Spirit
When we believe we are marked with a seal the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. (Ephesians 1: 13-14). The believer has the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 3:16 ), but we must also be filled.
How can we filled with God’s Spirit? The filling of us with God’s Spirit is his work. Our work is to prepare ourself for his Spirit.
When we look at chapter 4 of Ephesians it is plain that we must not live as the Gentiles do (like those around us), but rather put off our old self and put on the new self.
For the Ephesians this meant:
Not speaking lies, but telling the truth.
Not stealing, but working so that they could share with those in need.
Not using bad language, but saying that which is helpful.
Not being full of rage and bitterness, but kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other
Why should we be filled with Spirit?
The work of the spirit is a stimulant not a depressant.
The work of the spirit is productive not destructive.
The work of the spirit produces real fellowship and joy
Do you want to be filled with the Spirit?
If so put off the wrong behaviour and attitudes and put on the right behaviour and attitudes. Look to God for his stimulating, productive Spirit which brings true joy and fellowship.
I read this account once of Mary Slessor. She was was a well known Scottish missionary to Nigeria.
One day a young missionary woman arrived in Nigeria where the now older Mary Slessor was working. There was activity everywhere and the young missionary woman did not know what she could do. Seeing Mary Slessor she came up and in frustration said ” What can I do?”
Mary Slessor replied and said “You are not here to do, but to be!”
Below are the famous words of Jesus about how his disciples are “to be”.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
We may have visited a tennis or golf club to learn these sports, but then found that the standard of the teaching and coaching there was very low. Some churches also have a low standard of teaching and those who attend learn very little.
Paul was involved in the beginning of the church at Ephesus and was there for about two years teaching and discussing the Christian faith (Acts 19). Paul (and others) believed that ordinary people could understand the faith. He wrote the letter of Ephesians to explain more to them.
In Ephesians 4:11, Paul points out that “ Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers”.
These are all people who teach or speak the Word of God. Teaching God’s Word is part of church life.
Whenever the church has prospered there have been teachers who explained the Christian faith believing that the ordinary person can understand it.
Why should we seek to understand the Christian faith in the church?
In Ephesians 4:11-16 there is a picture of the church as the body and Christ is the head. Teaching and preaching etc builds up the body of Christ (the church) (Ephesians 4:13).
In our services there is then“body building”.
There are three parts of this “body building”
1. Understanding the Christian faith with the mind so that we “reach unity in the faith” (Ephesians 4:13) and speak “the truth in love” (15).
2. Knowing and experiencing Christ in the heart (“knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:13)).
Note in Ephesians 1:17 Paul prays “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him (Christ) better.”
3.Serving each other in love (Ephesians 4:12 and 16)
We are to grow and not remain children (Ephesians 1:14). Children are easily distracted. We must not be easily distracted by false teaching, but rather understand the faith so that we can speak with love (Ephesians 1:15)
We may come to church for various reasons but we should also come to do “bodybuilding”!
Text: Ephesians 4:11-16
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Many of us have people or things that concern us, maybe our children or parents. It could be our health or our job. We may even be concerned about those things we do wrong.
The woman in our passage (Matthew 15:21-28) was burdened about her daughter’s suffering. What did she do?
I She presented her burden to the Lord, asking for his help.
II She did it persistently. She did not give up.
III She argued her case. She reminded the Lord that his blessing was so great that even she a gentile woman could benefit from the blessing he brings.
Let us note that the Lord commended her faith and granted her request.
When we are burdened and concerned about someone or something let us follow her example and bring our requests to the Lord persistently and with reasons that he should answer.
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
In this message we look at the words of Jesus when he says to the disciples:
“You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13)
5 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
13 ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled
14 ‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
We consider Paul’s visit to Athens in Acts 17 and think about his message.
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[b] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[c]
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.